Novak Djokovic set up a 45th meeting with Roger Federer by downing Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Thursday.
The world number one needed two hours and seven minutes to see off the challenge of the seventh-seeded Nishikori 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
In a battle of two players with some the best backhands in the business, Djokovic was bidding to extend his incredible grand slam winning streak to 19 matches. He came into the match having endured a mighty battle to maintain that record, pushed to five sets by Gilles Simon, but any toll that the match may have taken on him was not evident on Rod Laver Arena.
Since Nishikori’s famous win over Djokovic at the 2014 US Open, the Japanese ace had suffered four comprehensive defeats at the hands of the world number one, taking just one set in those four matches.
It looked like Djokovic’s dominance would continue unabated when an awful second serve from Nishikori handed the Serb the break in the sixth game of the match. Nishikori’s second serve has always been pinpointed as one of his weaknesses, and Tuesday night was no different.
Djokovic’s serving was simply too solid for Nishikori in the opener, with the top seed dropping just five points on his own serve as he took the first set 6-3 in 32 minutes.
Matters got even worse for Nishikori when he was broken in the opening game of the second set, and while he had chances to break back he couldn’t take advantage. He would convert just two of eight break point opportunities. Indeed, the world number seven had to fight hard not to relinquish another break, coming from 0-40 down to deny Djokovic in his next service game.
A fantastic Djokovic volley set up another opportunity for a break, and this time, he converted to go 4-1 up. By this point, Nishikori was playing some good tennis, but it simply wasn’t quite good enough as Djokovic took the set 6-2.
Nishikori took a medical timeout after the second set and on his return he promptly served two double faults. While he was able to recover the signs were ominous.
However, the match then took a somewhat unexpected turn when Nishikori grabbed a surprise break in the second game, the 26-year-old letting out a roar of delight.
Djokovic would break right back, only to lose his own serve. With both players going for their shots there were plenty of winners, but also, a number of unforced errors as four consecutive breaks of serve were reeled off.
It was Djokovic who stopped the bleeding by holding serve to level matters at 3-3 before breaking for a third time to go 4-3 up. From there Djokovic was unrelenting and sealed the victory with his third match point.
In his sixth Australian Open semi-final Djokovic will come up against the third-seeded Federer.
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